Cat Bounce, A Fable to Horrify the Inner Child
Horror Writers Association Stoker Award Short Story finalist
by Gerard Houarner, illustrated by GAK
By the way, there is a very fetching T-shirt available with
Gak's cover image on the chest encircled by the logo Dead
Cat, He's Back, available from Space and Time. Be the
first on your block to own a Dead Cat T-shirt! Black on ash,
available from Space
& Time. Ten bucks, postage paid, name your size. Special
deal if you buy the chapbook along with the shirt!
This poignant story manages to mix Don Marquis'
Mehitabel with Karloff's Mummy in a charming creepy-funny
fashion, a tone captured perfectly in numerous B&W drawings
by a mysterious artist known only as GAK.
Paul Di Filippo, Asimov's Science Fiction,
May, 2001, Dead Cat Bounce
Gerard Houarner. Write story. Use minimal language. Make
R.C. Matheson seem wordy. You. Read chapbook. Laugh and
squirm. Fun. No bounce back to publisher.
Garrett Peck, Hellnotes, Dead Cat Bounce
...DEAD CAT BOUNCE, a delightful fable that will horrify
your twisted inner child. A strange hybrid of short story
and comic book, DEAD CAT BOUNCE defies accurate description.
Suffice to say, it is unlike anything done before and wonderfully
so. Houarner has created a unique blend of poetry and prose;
a literary assault that rolls off the page and picks through
your brain like razors.
Brian Keene, Master of Terror website, Dead
On an entirely different plane is Dead Cat Bounce.
Subtitled "A Fable To Horrify The Inner Child," it delivers
on that promise with a blend of the most bizarre illustrations,
the blackest humour, and that uniquely pragmatic and fantastic
Houarner is justly famous for. This is a fable with a guffaw
and a shudder, never allowing us to move too far from these
Dead Cat Bounce is that book you lend to friends,
just to see if you can appall them, the gift that earns
you searching glances from everyone else at the party. And
it is a well-camouflaged look at that mythical "fairness"
of life. Most of all, it is a risk Houarner took that flails
wildly but lands solidly on its feet.
Lisa Dumond, MEviews, SF Site, Dead Cat Bounce
Very enjoyable. I read it aloud to my wife and she nearly
laughed up a lung.
Robin Sprigg, writer, Dead Cat Bounce
This is a narrative poem, or perhaps it's a graphic chapbook.
Interspersed throughout the whole story are bits and pieces
of satire or commentary on humans, religion, process, and
other things. The artwork is complementary and perfect in
execution. The whole package is quite nicely done and I'd
Steve Sawicki, The Skeptic Tank, Scavengeršs
Newsletter, Dead Cat Bounce
Why Dead Cat Bounce,
an unreasonable explanation by Gerard Houarner and Gak
(Reprinted from Jobs In Hell #51, an online marketing
newsletter -- for further information, contact Brian Keene at
or visit Jihad Publications at: http://home.earthlink.net/~jihadpubs/)
In twenty-three years of writing, Dead Cat Bounce, A
Fable to Horrify the Inner Child is the first story I've
written that has ever provoked consistent questioning from
readers about its origin. People shake their heads, usually
after just looking at the title and Gak's cover, and ask,
why did I do this? Sometimes, after reading it, they ask,
how could I do this? The latter question is for psychologists
to answer. The former I can address.
Ever since I discovered Joe Lansdale's My Dead Dog Bobby,
I've wanted to do a children's story. A fable for adults
and children, balanced between primal realities and social
necessities. Something that was fantasy, but with a dark emotional
core that children experience directly in their daily lives
and adults rarely remember.
The ground was prepared by meeting Gak at the Atlanta World
Horror Convention. Of course I had seen his work, and he had
even illustrated one of my stories for an Australian magazine.
We hung out in the bar with other writers and artists and
had a good time, I came away with the vague notion that we
should do something together. It would be fun. In discussing
possibilities, we both agreed we should do a chapbook length
project, something relatively cheap to produce and sell, something
to carry around at conventions that was not too expensive
for a casual purchase and might grab some attention. And most
importantly, we wanted the book to serve as an introduction,
a calling card, to our work.
At the time, I was working on solidifying parts of the outline
for Road From Hell, the third book about a character
Max and his twin lovers, Kueur and Alioune. (The first, The
Beast That Was Max, will be published by Leisure in June,
2001.) I needed a messenger to communicate between a character
in hell and others in a borderlands area. Then I read an article
about the an Egyptian excavation which revealed the practice
of raising animals to be mummified so they could carry pilgrims'
messages to the gods. I had my messenger. But the idea haunted
me, nagged me. What was up with this cat? How did it feel,
being a messenger?
The idea took off when I found the title. While listening
to a stock market report, one of the reporters referred to
a mild run-up on a stock during after hours trading as a dead
cat bounce. What!? Is that phrasing legal? I've been asked
to change story victims from animals to people by editors
sensitive to animal cruelty, so this bit slang was a revelation.
It served the story, it was shocking, and still new enough
to be unknown by most people. It was mine.
Finally, I had to find a voice. One of the key elements
of a successful, even classic, children's tale is voice. Dr.
Seuss is the most obvious example. Poking around in the children's
section of the local Barnes and Noble didn't reveal anything
inspiring (writers will understand that as an inability to
find anything worth stealing). So I went back to the character,
shifting back and forth between third to first person. I researched
cat psychology. I remembered cats I've known and lived with.
Finally, the more I looked at the world through cat eyes,
the leaner my thinking became until I found a spare, direct
voice, grounded in basic cat drives. No singing, dancing,
poetry, boots, fencing, Broadway productions or French fairy
tales. I pared down sentences even while preparing the final
copy for publication. As for publication, well, I have to
admit I cheated. I work for Gordon Linzner as Fiction Editor
for Space & Time magazine. As in any small press venture,
there's no payment involved, just the satisfaction of being
involved in a high class operation and giving other writers
an opportunity for publication. However, the relationship
does give me an "in" with the publisher. Thankfully, I didn't
have to send it through the mail with a proposal letter --
I handed the story over to Gordon, who scratched his head
and shrugged his shoulders and told me to go ahead. Equally
fortunate, Gak also liked the story and was practicing drawing
dead cats, awaiting for the go ahead.
Gak's stunning art came back, Gordon and I laid out the
book, and it was produced in time for a release at NECon,
where it was given away as a goodie-bag freebie instead of
the usual copy of Space and Time which Gordon normally gives
out at the convention. One writer shook his head, saying I
had just wiped out my prime market, but making money off this
project wasn't the primary objective. (Writers, as any small
press publisher will tell you, are too damned poor to buy
that many books and magazines, anyway.) The book created a
nice buzz at the convention and has received some good reviews
in the few months since its release. More importantly, it
was a lot of fun to do. And lastly, we are making a little
bit of money as I invariably sell a copy or two at gatherings,
along with an occasional Dead Cat T-shirt (Dead Cat, He's
Back). The bottom line is that I have something provocative
and amusing to wave in front of people at panels and readings
(a la Mark McLaughlin), which will hopefully serve as a lead-in
for my other work (and Gak's, as well). People rarely spring
for an expensive hardcover collectible book, or even an expensive
trade paperback, from an author they do not know or are only
vaguely familiar with. But Dead Cat Bounce is an alluring
alternative -- a picture book, dark, funny (in a sick sort
of way, of course), and cheap. And who knows, there might
be a future in fables that horrify the inner child.
If only MTV would return my calls...
When Gerard and I first discussed the possibility
of putting a chapbook together I immediately jumped at the
chance, sight unseen. A cat, sacrificed to Bast, sent to hell
as a messenger and dragging itself back to the land of the
living thru an act of sheer willpower. How could I possibly
pass this up?
I had also been trying to put together an anthology/graphic
novel of stories based upon GAKART...and though I had gathered
together an impressive stable of authors, few publishers were
up to the task of producing the book. Dead Cat would
be a perfect introduction to what I had in mind for the anthology,
though not based on GAKART it certainly was in sync with my
Days after World Horror I received via email the story,
Dead Cat Bounce...printed it out and putting my feet
up on my drawing table began to read. And grew more and more
perplexed. Through the magic of computer technology...or my
own idiocy when dealing with said technology, the story had
printed out as one long, run-on sentence with no breaks for
paragraphs or spacing. Looking at the pile of other work waiting
to be completed before Dead Cat, I tossed the story
on my "to do" pile, where it sat. And sat. For days. For weeks.
Finally I picked the story up again and began breaking it
down into manageable bits, alternating hot pink highlighter
with hot orange. I began downloading every breed of cat picture
I could find online...trust me, there are a shitload of them
out there. But none were Dead Cat.
The greatest part of the story was the minimalist way it
was written. It gave me total freedom in creating my very
own version of hell and its inhabitants.
The pile of sketches grew as time grew shorter. Gerard was
a saint. Occasionally asking what was up with the story and
accepting my cryptic replies that I was bounce bounce bouncing
along with my dead cats. But none of the cats were quite right.
He had to be just right, just scary enough and yet still cute
in a weird kinda way. Then my own cat, Capt. Blood, leaps
upon my shelves, knocks over a glass of water and spills it
upon the story. Hot pink and orange watercolor marker begins
to flow and ooze, blurring the writing, totally obliterating
it in some instances. Fortunately I had the story and visuals
floating in my head all ready and was just waiting to nail
down Dead Cat himself. I screamed. I yelled. I stomped around
the house cleaning up the mess whilst Capt. Blood watched
in amusement as cats are known to do. I looked at him sitting
there. Blood is a Persian who, alas, I don't keep groomed
as well as i should. He tends to have tufts of fur sticking
out in every direction without rhyme or reason. Though he
doesn't look much like the Dead Cat drawings, the attitude
and general scruffiness is there. I sat down, started drawing,
and Dead Cat was born.
Back to Gerard Houarner's New Publications